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by Harry McMullan, III
Flush with success, it's natural to laugh and tell funny stories; harder, though, to search for good in the collapsed rubble of our fondest dreams. Discouragement and defeat often follow sad circumstance, insinuating it's no use, the battle is lost anyway. But if we concur, we allow ourselves to be rendered helpless by the undertow of evil and pain in this imperfect world; if we furl our standard without a fight, discouragement has won a needless victory.
Discouragement arises from continued failure which causes us to wonder if we will ever measure up to our own or others' standards. But the only standard which matters in God's sight is whether we follow his spirit in our lives. We are not accountable for causes of failure beyond our control, such as circumstance, lack of natural giftedness in the area of our efforts, or interference by selfish individuals.
By the world's standards, Jesus' life ended in failure, with his apostles and disciples scattered and himself crucified by enemies. Yet Father in heaven accepted his life's work, and we likewise must judge success from a spiritual perspective. Faithfulness in doing our duty and our loving intention wisely to serve can be the only measure of success in any undertaking. Only lack of intelligent effort and diligence should we lay at our own doors.
Defeat cannot be understood apart from evaluating the goals toward which the effort was directed. Within us are human abilities to accomplish goals far beyond those of which we avail ourselves. When to these human talents are added the divine reinforcement of the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, Father's indwelling spirit, and the support of angels, our human capacity to accomplish is immeasurably increased. This addition of power results from aligning our human selves with the power of God. When we sincerely attempt to do Father's will, all things become possible--all things--for God cannot be limited.
Experiencing defeat is a normal and valuable aspect of life. It induces us to reexamine the entire situation in which we find ourselves with a view toward helpful course correction. Wallowed in, however, defeat paralyzes our wills and creates a self-fulfilling continuance in that failure from which deliverance is sought. There is nothing unusual about failure or defeat. The city's gate does not give in at the battering ram's first blow; persistence is required. So long as life remains, only good can come from challenging life's hardships, for all things work together for good for those who love God and are dedicated to his will. From our Father's perspective, the crash of our life's plans and the heavy clouds of failure, darkness, and pain are giving birth to deeper wisdom and greater opportunities for growth and service.
We use failure and defeat, then, to reevaluate the validity of that which we seek, asking Father whether our goals and chosen means are in accordance with his plan. If they are not, failure must sooner or later ensue, because we will find ourselves arrayed against the on-moving course of Reality itself. When, however, we feel God's assurance that our goals and means are acceptable in his sight, we must not allow anything to deflect us; we must reject any human characterization of failure for efforts which meet divine approval; we must aggressively continue despite all indications to the contrary, allowing nothing to discourage our righteous efforts. Communion with Father's loving nature lessens our struggles and empowers us to achieve his loving will.
The consciousness of a victorious human life on earth is born of that creature faith which dares to challenge each recurring episode of existence when confronted with the awful spectacle of human limitations, by the unfailing declaration: Even if I cannot do this, there lives in me one who can and will do it, a part of the Father-Absolute of the universe of universes. And that is "the victory which overcomes the world, even your faith." (4:4.9)
But long before reaching Havona, these ascendant children of time have learned to feast upon uncertainty, to fatten upon disappointment, to enthuse over apparent defeat, to invigorate in the presence of difficulties, to exhibit indomitable courage in the face of immensity, and to exercise unconquerable faith when confronted with the challenge of the inexplicable. Long since, the battle cry of these pilgrims became: "In liaison with God, nothing-absolutely nothing-is impossible." (26:5.3)
From [these angels] you will learn to let pressure develop stability and certainty; to be faithful and earnest and, withal, cheerful; to accept challenges without complaint and to face difficulties and uncertainties without fear. They will ask: If you fail, will you rise indomitably to try anew? If you succeed, will you maintain a well-balanced poise-a stabilized and spiritualized attitude-throughout every effort in the long struggle to break the fetters of material inertia, to attain the freedom of spirit existence?
Even as mortals, so have these angels been father to many disappointments, and they will point out that sometimes your most disappointing disappointments have become your greatest blessings. Sometimes the planting of a seed necessitates its death, the death of your fondest hopes, before it can be reborn to bear the fruits of new life and new opportunity. (48:6.24-25)
Jesus portrayed the profound surety of the God-knowing mortal when he said: "To a God-knowing kingdom believer, what does it matter if all things earthly crash?" Temporal securities are vulnerable, but spiritual sureties are impregnable. When the flood tides of human adversity, selfishness, cruelty, hate, malice, and jealousy beat about the mortal soul, you may rest in the assurance that there is one inner bastion, the citadel of the spirit, which is absolutely unassailable; at least this is true of every human being who has dedicated the keeping of his soul to the indwelling spirit of the eternal God.
After such spiritual attainment, whether secured by gradual growth or specific crisis, there occurs a new orientation of personality as well as the development of a new standard of values. Such spirit-born individuals are so remotivated in life that they can calmly stand by while their fondest ambitions perish and their keenest hopes crash; they positively know that such catastrophes are but the redirecting cataclysms which wreck one's temporal creations preliminary to the rearing of the more noble and enduring realities of a new and more sublime level of universe attainment. (100:2.7-8)
What you are today is not so important as what you are becoming day by day and in eternity. (111:1.5)
"The Lord is near all who call upon him in sincerity and in truth. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." (131:2.9)
And when these maladjusted human beings had told Jesus about their troubles, always was he able to offer practical and immediately helpful suggestions looking toward the correction of their real difficulties, albeit he did not neglect to speak words of present comfort and immediate consolation. And invariably would he tell these distressed mortals about the love of God and impart the information, by various and sundry methods, that they were the children of this loving Father in heaven. (132:4.2)
The disciples early learned that the Master had a profound respect and sympathetic regard for every human being he met, and they were tremendously impressed by this uniform and unvarying consideration which he so consistently gave to all sorts of men, women, and children. He would pause in the midst of a profound discourse that he might go out in the road to speak good cheer to a passing woman laden with her burden of body and soul. He would interrupt a serious conference with his apostles to fraternize with an intruding child. Nothing ever seemed so important to Jesus as the individual human who chanced to be in his immediate presence. (138:8.9)
"Again I say to you: Ask and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. For every one who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door of salvation will be opened." (144:2.3)
"Much of man's sorrow is born of the disappointment of his ambitions and the wounding of his pride. Although men owe a duty to themselves to make the best of their lives on earth, having thus sincerely exerted themselves, they should cheerfully accept their lot and exercise ingenuity in making the most of that which has fallen to their hands. All too many of man's troubles take origin in the fear soil of his own natural heart. . . .
"Seek not, then, for false peace and transient joy but rather for the assurance of faith and the sureties of divine sonship which yield composure, contentment, and supreme joy in the spirit." (149:5.3-4)
The measure of the spiritual capacity of the evolving soul is your faith in truth and your love for man, but the measure of your human strength of character is your ability to resist the holding of grudges and your capacity to withstand brooding in the face of deep sorrow. Defeat is the true mirror in which you may honestly view your real self. (156:5.17)
Forget not that I will stop at nothing to restore self-respect to those who have lost it, and who really desire to regain it. (159:3.3)
Failure is simply an educational episode-a cultural experiment in the acquirement of wisdom-in the experience of the God-seeking man who has embarked on the eternal adventure of the exploration of a universe. To such men defeat is but a new tool for the achievement of higher levels of universe reality. (160:4.9)
He taught men to place a high value upon themselves in time and in eternity. Because of this high estimate which Jesus placed upon men, he was willing to spend himself in the unremitting service of humankind. . . . What mortal can fail to be uplifted by the extraordinary faith Jesus has in him? (196:2.10)